Delivering a digital media project: achievements and learnings
As you’ll have heard me talk about before, I’m leading a large digital media project, Digital Commonwealth, and over the last few months with help from my project team I’ve moved from development to delivery mode. In this post I wanted to share some of the great work we’ve been able to achieve to date, look forward to the next stages of the project and, finally, draw attention to a few important learning legacies we’ve already gathered (and are addressing).
Planning and profile
Although the project is predominantly focused on lowering the threshold for involvement for a wider public to produce their own creative response to the 2014 Commonwealth Games, it was important that the project developed a visual profile and wider ‘brand’ that could be launched publicly and attract attention from the right constituencies. We developed a logo and design template that is visually strong and is also useable by our partners and project participants DCW Launch flyer new print
We held a launch event at Platform in Easterhouse, Glasgow in October and shared the content captured on the day widely, adhering the principles of the project to be open, accessible and to encourage collaborative working. One of our partners, John Popham not only livestreamed the event (using mobile kit) but he also produced a Storify of the day. The launch event was a great success, with over 50 attendees and great engagement from participants in creative writing workshops, a community media cafe and discussion around the schools programme. Some of the content from the day is hosted on the YouTube channel of our partners at the MediaTrust’s Local360 network
Our first delivery intervention for Digital Commonwealth focuses on raising awareness and ensuring that as wide a set of beneficiaries as possible across Scotland can get involved in the project. We decided to utilise the Community Media Cafe model (described here on our website by our project coordinator, Jennifer Jones). Before the end of 2013, we’ll have delivered 16 cafes with ‘local’ partners in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Ayrshire. Our project was always intended to be co-created and we’ve already involved Station House Media Unit, Camglen Radio, Plantation Productions, Sunny Govan and WHALE Arts to help us work with community members to learn more abut using audio, video, blogging and social media to tell their own stories. To get involved in the remaining Community Media Cafe’s confirmed dates can be found here.
Our schools programme and creative voices elements are delivered in early 2014, but we have been working hard to recruit school clusters in each of Scotland’s 32 local authorities (to get involved, check out the criteria for involvement here). Our team will deliver workshops on creative digital media (audio, video, blogging and social media) and school clusters will choose the Commonwealth themes that best suit their curriculum interests and local particularities. We’ve already had ideas relating to a John Muir documentary and Shetland’s maritime traditions and their links to the Commonwealth.
Our creative voices initiative will support target groups experiencing marginalisation, whether economic, social or cultural to use songwriting, creative writing or film to interpret their response to the context of the Commonwealth. We’re recruiting groups before the New Year around University of the West of Scotland’s four campus areas. If your have a group interested in participating then contact the project coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org) to discuss possible involvement.
With any large, externally funded project of this sort, there are a number of learning points that emerge as you move from planning to delivery. Here are a few that are relevant to our project, but also to other projects of a similar nature:
- Trusted partnerships are crucial to success. It is quite easy to talk about co-creation, collaboration, etc but these concepts only have meaning when built on the foundation of trust and reciprocity. Building trust between partners takes time and goes well beyond contractual imperatives. However, once trust is developed, anything is possible.
- Understanding the power (and limitations) of networked media (and social media) is vital in creating a national project and reaching those institutional actors already committed to a digital inclusion agenda. Digital Commonwealth, through the use of web/social media has generated interest and that’s has enabled us to start conversations with those people that the Big Lottery Fund (our funders) want to reach and participate
- ‘Creative’, ‘Digital’, ‘Media’, ‘Technology’ are throwaway terms that can, at times, distract from the important task of communicating the fundamental purpose of the project. Digital Commonwealth is really about stories and the digital dimension is just our chosen way of telling these stories and ensuring that others have the opportunity to hear or read about them
- Planning and coordination is imperative. Those participants being brought into a project like Digital Commonwealth need to know why they’re being invited, what they will be expected to commit to and what support is available for them to turn to when they’re confused or in need of technical help. The more distributed or networked the project (and Digital Commonwealth certainly is both of these), the higher the stakes.
The final learning legacy is perhaps the most important if Digital Commonwealth is to deliver on its vision. But, crucially, the achievement of this vision is dependent not on prescription, control, bureaucracy and compliance, but instead requires ownership, creative ideas, flexibility, engagement and commitment.